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  • Wendy Percival

Churchyard mysteries



During a beautiful "false-spring" spell of weather here in the UK recently I was taking photographs of the wild daffodils in the village churchyard, when I saw something I'd not noticed before.

I thought I'd read every gravestone in the churchyard but clearly, I'd not read them properly because for the first time I realised that in this small corner where the wild daffodils grow, three of the stones recorded the names of dead children below their parents.


John Ellacott had died in 1906, aged 1 year and 7 months, John Edworthy had died aged 12, in 1889 and Ellen Louise Reed had died in 1900 aged 5.

It was a salutary reminder of how high the infant mortality rate was at this time, which reached its peak in the 1890s.

Some sources quote 150 deaths per 1,000 under the age of 5, often due to childhood illnesses such as Scarlet Fever or diarrhoea. By comparison, the figure for 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics, was 3.9 per 1,000.

Inner cities in booming Industrial Britain accounted for many deaths due to the unsanitary and cramped conditions in which people lived but, as my discovery shows, children in rural areas weren't immune.

It will be interesting to find out what caused the death of these little souls and see if I can learn something of their stories. I'll keep you posted!


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#churchyard #gravestones #scarletfever #childmortality

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